The car industry is an exciting place to be at the moment. Technological developments are occurring at an astounding pace as ideas from different sectors come together to enable big leaps forward. Models that have been discussed in theory for decades are finally becoming a reality. Within ten years, the kind of cars on the streets could make today’s look like the equivalent of the horse-drawn cart.
Development and actualisation
It all begins with engineers who design on computers what will ultimately end up on the roads. Every design is tested extensively in virtual reality before a prototype is developed. During the early years of vehicle use, they are constantly brought back into the lab for condition monitoring research, enabling engineers to assess how they function and deteriorate over time. British engineering firm Meggitt has done this with dozens of vehicle types over the months since Sir Nigel Rudd became Meggitt Chairman, and has a strong reputation for its efficient process of vehicle health management. This contributes to its success as a developer of high-performance cars.
One of the developments that has received public attention in recent months is the self-driving car, and it’s true that there are now fully functioning prototypes of what was once the stuff of Knightrider and similar fantasies. Simple versions of the self-driving car have been used to help people move around airport concourses. The Netherlands is preparing to test them in traffic and experts believe that having a computer in control will be far safer than relying on a human.
Less glamorous but perhaps just as useful is V2V communication, a system through which vehicles talk to each other so as to work out how to position themselves more efficiently on the road. Several major companies are working to perfect this technology, which uses an ad hoc network to let any vehicle communicate with any other in its vicinity, sharing important data on things like position and speed.
Not quite like James Bond’s famously camouflaged Aston Martin – which would quickly have found itself in an accident – these land rovers instead use virtual reality to make the bonnet appear transparent to the driver, making it easier to steer over rough terrain and avoid hazards. Because the wheels remain visible, the driver can see their exact position when navigating an obstacle.
Although real flying cars have been produced, they are unlikely to be flying through British skies in the near future because they’re not very efficient and nobody can work out a safe way to coordinate that much aerial traffic. A more practical option has emerged, however, in the form of Toyota’s hovering car, which would float just above the surface of the road so that it could move along with minimal friction. It’s still in the design stages at present, but if it makes it to the road it could revolutionise the way people drive.
These are just some of the changes coming to the car industry, so everyone should keep their eyes on the road.